The hidden dangers in your mobile phone contract

Nobody likes checking documents with a fine-tooth comb, but being careful with your mobile phone contract can save you some expensive mistakes.

We all know we should read the small print before signing anything, but who does? We just want it now!!!

As part of an April Fools Prank in 2010, game retailer Gamestation once inserted a new clause in its terms and conditions requiring customers to sign away their souls.

It demanded: “By placing an order via this website… you agree to grant us a non-transferable option to claim, for now and for ever more, your immortal soul, and any claim you may have on it, within five working days of receiving written notification from gamesation.co.uk or one of its duly authorised minions.”

All customers had to do, was just opt out by clicking on a link, only 12 percent were observant enough to do so.

Some Governments have considered regulation over the use of small print in contracts by stipulating a minimum font size and basic level of intelligibility.

However, this may well end up extending only to consumers and explicitly excluding business contracts.

So what are the most common hidden dangers that can lurk in a mobile phone contract?

Can you understand the contract?

The biggest danger by far is it being unintelligible to begin with. Contracts are often mired in such extreme legalese that it’s impossible for the layman to make head or tail of them. Sheer length can also grind you down, so that your eyes glaze over and nothing actually sinks in. A company with nothing to hide should minimise both these problems, using language that’s as clear and concise as possible.

Check the trial period of a plan – some may be shorter than you expect – the notice period, and whether the contract will automatically roll over when it ends. Check how much you’ll pay if you go over your allowances for calls, texts and data…a “bigger” deal may well work out much cheaper in the long run. And be wary of ‘fair usage’ clauses…your idea of what’s reasonable may be very different from that of your provider.

Can the provider change it without notice?

It also makes sense to be particularly careful when checking what the mobile phone contract allows the carrier to do. Some are written in such a way as to allow it to change just about anything…including monthly payments…with little or no advance notice. Sometimes, customers find that an add-on service…maybe even one that’s vital for their business…can be cancelled. Check for late payment fees and unexpected surcharges as well.

What rights do you have?

Look beyond the cost. See what level of service and support you can count on. It’s not uncommon, for example, to find clauses designed to get the seller out of replacing faulty items, or to give unreasonably short time limits for the return of goods.

Above all, read everything carefully – however long it takes – and ask for an explanation for anything you don’t understand. After all, your immortal soul could be at stake…

Are employee benefits the key to retaining good staff?

Some employers would say yes, but the experts agree that you can’t supplement a poor work culture with employee benefits.

You can use employee benefits to reinforce your company culture and show staff they matter, but you must have a good culture to start with, otherwise employee benefits won’t stop staff leaving.

If your culture is one where employees feel valued, supported, they have room to grow and are remunerated fairly…employee benefits can definitely give you an edge on employee retention.

If you align the benefits to increasing the health and the well-being of your employees, it’s a win/win for everyone.

Some popular employee benefits, which can contribute to good physical and mental health include:

  • Flu Shots
  • Day off on birthday
  • Free fortnightly massages at work
  • Weekly lunchtime yoga classes
  • Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
  • Bring your pet to work day
  • Fruit supplied in the kitchen
  • Supplemented gym memberships
  • Flexible working hours
  • Mental health days as required
  • Ability to work from home when needed

If your workplace has enough flexibility so employees don’t feel overwhelmed with life outside work, productivity is significantly increased.

The modern day successful workplace is a two way street. Happy employees always give 110% especially when they feel supported by the business they work for.

A Snapshot of the New Labour Hire Licensing Laws

The Labour Hire Licensing Act 2017 (Qld), which commenced on 16 April 2018, aims to protect workers from exploitation by providers of labour hire services and to promote the integrity of the labour hire industry through a licensing scheme.

The Act will apply to those who, as part of carrying on a business, hire out workers to another person or business, such as organisations that provide apprentices and temporary staff.

Some of the key features of the Act include:

  • Licensees being required to pass a fit and proper person test;
  • The entity providing the services to be financially viable;
  • Licensees to submit half yearly reports on their operational activities;
  • Strong penalties for breach of obligations;
  • The establishment of a labour hire licensing compliance unit, responsible for awareness, monitoring and enforcement functions.

A person may be seen as not fit and proper and therefore refused a licence if they have been convicted of a serious criminal offence, have been a bankrupt or disqualified from holding a directorship in a company or is under the control or influence of another person who is not fit and proper to provide the labour hire services.

The scheme will be regulated and managed by the Labour Hire Licensing Compliance Unit.

The expectation is that by 15 June 2018, anyone who provides labour hire services in Queensland must either have a licence or have submitted one. Licences are renewed annually and carry with it a licensing fee based on the amount of wages paid by the business.

If you are unsure whether your business will require a license or would like more information about the Act, please visit www.labourhire.qld.gov.au.

Crypto Currencies – The rise of the cashless society

A ‘Cashless Society’ describes an economic state whereby Financial Transactions are not conducted with money in the forms of physical banknotes or coins, but rather through the transfer of digital information (usually an electronic representation of money) between the ‘transacting parties’. Cashless societies have existed, based on barter and other methods of exchange.

Cashless transactions have also become possible using many different forms of ‘crypto currencies’ such as ‘Bitcoin’. A ‘Crypto Currency’ is described by Wikipedia as ‘a controversial digital asset designed to work as a medium of exchange that uses cryptography to secure its transactions to control the creation of additional units and to verify the transfer or assets.’ Depending on whom you listen to and believe ‘Crypto Currencies’ may just be ‘the next big thing’ or a ‘total fraud’.

Using the example of ‘Bitcoin’ whilst there are many examples of individuals who’ve invested and made strong returns in relatively short periods of time there appear to be many strange terminologies used and old adage of ‘If it’s too good to be true…’ may just apply.

Like an investment, a sound knowledge of both the product and the market allow better opportunities to obtain strong returns on capital. Whilst there have been many articles and lots of discussions regarding these relatively new products they haven’t been around long enough to make a truly informed assessment. There has also been a great deal of negative press that have surrounded many of these new markets. ‘Ponzi Scheme’ along with other negative names have been used to describe these new markets.

Further, as these products are delivered on electronic platforms across many country borders, consideration should be given to the Legal and Taxation framework and jurisdictions that exist where the transaction will occur.

Not dissimilar to any new or emerging products and markets, the more research and advice from professionals will allow you, as an Investor, the best opportunity for success.

Once again, the Greek saying that translates to ‘Let the buyer beware’ should raise the appropriate alerts.

Travel Insurance and Credit Cards – what you need to know

Before your fly, check your insurance

It’s imperative for travellers to have a full understanding of their Travel Insurance Policies prior to heading off on their adventures.

Certain credit cards that have Travel Insurance Policies included as part of their offering sometimes have many limitations and exclusions that may cause heartache if not understood prior to departure.

There are many insurance products that are attached to credit cards that sometimes don’t provide adequate coverage. As travellers, we need to ensure that the coverage matches our expectations.

Some of the limitations of the credit card insurance policies don’t provide coverage for:

  • Terrorism related events
  • Certain international travel destinations

Certain policies are limited to provide coverage for medical expenses only and are often also priced accordingly.

Also, if you find yourself in a position where you need to make a travel claim here are some “tips” that may assist:

  • Get it down on paper – if you’re a victim of a flight or hotel cancellation or delay be sure to obtain written proof of such events from your airline and/or provider.
  • Keep receipts – Your insurer will require proof of payment/booking in order to settle your claim. Retaining boarding passes,

receipts or credit card statements further assist.

As always, contacting us, your broker, to advise of details of any potential claim with proof at your earliest opportunity will ensure prompt settlement of claims.

Further, by allowing us to view your existing coverage, prior to departure, will also allow for any “shortfalls or inadequacies” to be identified and the appropriate coverage obtained.

Don’t let the silly season get the better of you

Tips for keeping your home safe over Christmas

  1. Make your home less attractive to thieves.

Do this by investing in outdoor lighting and other visual deterrents such as alarms and CCTV cameras. If you are away for a period of time over the festive season, make it look like the house is still occupied.

  1. Check your alarm is in working order

Make sure your home alarm is in good working order prior to leaving for holidays.

  1. Protect your valuables

Never leave valuables in sight and consider investing in a safe for additional protection.

  1. Keep your presents safe

Expensive gifts on show under the tree are an invitation for burglars, as is any gift packaging left outside the home advertising any new and expensive items inside.

  1. Watch your posts on social media

Avoid publishing your holiday plans on social media.

  1. Position Christmas decorations strategically

Be aware of where you position your Christmas decorations, keeping in mind you want to ensure windows or doors are not obstructed.

  1. Leaving windows open

It may be warm and it’s tempting to keep the home open, but be aware of leaving windows and doors without security screens, open in empty rooms, especially if you are entertaining at the back of the house.

BREAK OUT: CHRISTMAS PARTY PLANNING

During the silly season there are plenty of things to think about, including if your office premises are safe and secure in the lead up to and during the holiday closure time.

The office Christmas party is always an opportunity to celebrate a successful year, but an important aspect to consider is the wellbeing of staff during Christmas parties.

Some things to consider include:

  • Health and safety of those attending
  • A clear end time
  • Do not endorse after parties
  • Ensure you have adequate insurance coverage
  • Alcohol – ensure there is RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol) in place, particularly for a private party and ensure there are non-alcoholic options available
  • Consider transport options for staff to leave safely
  • Have a plan in place for any incidents
  • Review your office policies, particularly surrounding bullying, discrimination and adverse action and remind staff of these prior to the event.

Christmas Safety

Tis the season to avoid online scammers

In a bid to avoid Christmas crowds, online shopping during the festive season is very appealing. And while the ease and

convenience of shopping from the comfort of home is a positive, it’s still important to be aware of simple security measures to ensure it’s not the season to be scammed.

During heavy shopping periods such as Christmas, the risk of online fraud and scams increases.

 

Heritage Bank has provided some simple tips to help you stay safe while shopping online during the Christmas period.

  • Protect your privacy – When you shop online, only include relevant information and check privacy policy and security of sites you visit.
  • Read all the fine print – This includes

refund and complaints handling policies. Are there any hidden costs you’ll be hit with at the check-out? There could be conversion costs (for international purchases) or hidden fees.

  • Don’t overshare on social media – Check your social media privacy settings. Do not post personal information that will put you at risk.
  • Reject Scam callers – Financial

institutions will never make unsolicited calls or emails asking for your personal banking details or card details, so always check with your provider.

  • Be alert to ‘romance scams’ – Over the Christmas and New Year period in

particular romance scams cause millions of dollars of loss to Australians.

  • Don’t send your bank or credit card

details via email to pay for purchases – Only pay via a secure web page that has a valid digital certificate. It should have a

padlock symbol and an address starting with https://

For more details about reporting and identifying scams and fraud, visit the SCAMWATCH and Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network websites.

House deposits – is Airbnb the answer? New company offering down payments with a catch

Down payment with a catch

It’s getting harder and harder for many to enter the housing market, but a new start-up in America is making it a little easier for those wanting to purchase a home…but it comes with a catch.

A 29-year-old entrepreneur from Seattle, Yifan Zhang has come up with a service, called Loftium, which fronts up the cash for a down payment on a home with a proviso they continuously list their extra bedroom on Airbnb for one to three years and share the income with the company.

Zhang told New York Times the concept came about when she and her husband

purchased a home in Seattle and looked into renting the spare bedroom to generate extra income. But when she learned the amount could cover her mortgage or sometimes more each month, she decided to start up Loftium.

The company provides prospective home-buyers in Seattle with up to $50,000 for a down payment as long as the extra bedroom is listed continuously on Airbnb for one to three years and the majority of income is shared with Loftium during this time.

The start-up determines the size of the down payment its willing to put up through an algorithm that predicts how much income a room can generate.

The company then collects around two-thirds of the income, leaving the home-owner to take home part of the profit as well.

And if the room doesn’t generate the expected income (provided it’s not directly the result of the homeowner through bad reviews/lack of availability etc), the homeowner is not out of pocket and there is no expectation to pay the money back.

The concept is fine if you are willing to open your home to travellers in order to get in the housing market.

While Loftium currently only operates in Seattle, the company has plans to branch out to more cities within a year and it’s only a matter of time before a similar operation starts up in Australia.

Airbnb – what are your rights?

Do you have rights to share your home?

Airbnb has become a central player in the sharing economy in the last decade. While its usage has presented opportunities to ease the financial burden of a mortgage, there are legal implications that hosts of strata-titled properties should be aware of.

In a recent case of Estens v Owners Corporation SP 11825 [2017] NSWCATCD 52, the NSW Civil & Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) found that strata by-laws which prohibited short term letting, like Airbnb, were invalid.

In this case, Ms Estens took the owner corporation of her apartment building to NCAT after it passed a by-law which prohibited short term letting as a result of a complaint by one of Ms Estens’ neighbours about the conduct of Ms Estens’ Airbnb guests.

Ms Estens argued that the by-law was invalid because it prohibited or restricted the dealing of a lot or transfer, lease, mortgage and infringed section 139(2) of the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 (NSW) (SSMA).

NCAT concluded that an Airbnb letting constituted a tenancy or lease as it had specific commencement and end dates and gave the tenant exclusive use of the property. It found that the by-law prohibited or restricted the dealing of a lease and was therefore invalid by reason of section 139(2) of the SSMA.

This decision seems in conflict with that of the Western Australian Supreme Court in Byrne v The Owners of Ceresa River Apartments Strata Plan 55597 [2017] WASCA 104, which had considered the WA equivalent of section 139(2) yet upheld a by-law prohibiting short term letting. However, it is consistent with the decision of Owners Corporation PS 501391P v Balcombe [2016] VSC 384, in which the

Supreme Court of Victoria found that owner corporations did not have authority to ban short term letting.

In Queensland, strata property is governed by the Body Corporate and Community Management Act 1997. However, there have been no cases which deal directly with Airbnb and strata property.

What arises out of the above cases is that there is currently no uniform approach across the country as to whether owners of strata property can rent out their homes on Airbnb, if in contravention of a strata by-law.

It seems that the wording of the by-law might be important in deciding whether it infringes the equivalent section 139(2) provisions in the various state legislations that deal with strata property.

It is suggested that owners of strata property review their Body Corporate by-laws before renting out their homes on Airbnb to ensure that they comply with any legal obligations.

Cyclone season is upon us

That’s not a cyclone…this is a cyclone

Although the effects of Cyclones Debbie, Yasi, Marcia and Larry are generally well known, these are dwarfed by Cyclone Mahina.

Cyclone Mahina is the deadliest cyclone in recorded Australian history, striking Bathurst Bay in Cape York on the 4th March 1899, with its destructive winds and storm surge combining to kill over 400 people. Thankfully, storms like this occur extremely rarely, with research by scientists finding that “on average”’ super cyclones occur in the region only once every two or three centuries.

A pearling fleet was anchored in or near the bay before the storm, but within an hour the fleet had either been driven ashore, onto the reef, or sunk at their anchorages.

A storm surge, reportedly 13 metres high, swept across Princess Charlotte Bay and then 5 kilometres inland destroying anything left of the fleet and the settlement. Apart from the sailors, around 100 indigenous

Australians were killed, but as indigenous people were not counted as part of the population at the time, no accurate numbers are known. Tragically, they had tried to help the shipwrecked survivors, but the back surge caught them and swept them away.

Thousands of fish and some sharks and

dolphins were found several kilometres inland and on Flinders Island, dolphins were found on the 15.2 metre cliffs.

The cyclone continued southwest over Cape York Peninsula, emerging into the Gulf of Carpentaria before doubling back and dissipating on the 10th March. Measuring cyclones is a complicated task as the biggest or strongest are often not the most

destructive, but one good measure of

intensity is pressure.

The lower the pressure, the more air gets sucked into the cyclone and this ultimately results in more power. A study in 2014, found the lowest pressure of around 880 hectopascals for Mahina, based upon modelling of meteorological variables needed to induce the world record setting surge height…by comparison, Cyclone Yasi was 930 hectopascals.

Hopefully, we won’t see anything like Cyclone Mahina in 2017/18, but Queensland, and more particularly North Queensland, is facing another nervous cyclone season, with weather forecasters predicting a dozen cyclones could form off the Australian coast this summer. Of those, up to four could cross the Queensland coast, but even tropical cyclones which do not make the coast can still have a significant impact on coastal communities. Heavy rainfall causing major flooding, storm surges causing coastal inundation and destructive winds causing damage to property and infrastructure are a common occurrence.

 

BREAK OUT:

The State Emergency Service recommend having an Emergency Kit ready for storm season that contains essential items you may need during and after a severe storm.

An Emergency Kit contains essential items that you and other members of your household may need during and after a severe storm.